However, the opening moments of the game told a different story.
After winning the opening tip, Sacred Heart went to work on offense. Despite missing their first shot, Diante Wood was fouled by Dylan Coleman, and he hit the back end of two free throws to put the Cardinals on the scoreboard.
Ohatchee’s Quinn Williams sank a jumper to put the Indians ahead 3-2, before Wood hit his first field goal to retake the lead.
Once Sacred Heart took the lead, the Cardinals never looked back.
The Cardinals outscored the Indians 24-9 after the first quarter. Kevion Nolan scored eight of 16 points in the opening quarter, and Quen Williams added five of his 11 points.
“We played really well in the first quarter,” Sacred Heart coach Ralpheal Graves said. “I mean, it was a little slow at times, but we ran the offense well.”
After going into halftime with a 32-19 lead, Sacred Heart knew it needed a bigger lead to be comfortable in the second half. D.J. Heath did his part in extending the Cardinals’ lead.
The freshman guard finished with a solid double-double — 15 points and 10 rebounds — to go along with Wood’s 19 points, to help seal first round win.
“You have to score the basketball, but our defense is our first priority,” Graves said. “They all did the things they are supposed to do.”
Coming out of halftime, Sacred Heart opened the third quarter on an 8-0, and ultimately outscored Ohatchee 22-8 in the quarter.
“With the lack of emotions around here, it was important for us to not play when not everyone is cheering for us,” Graves said.
For Ohatchee, Dillon Parker pulled down his own double-double — a game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. Dee Montgomery added seven points and eight rebounds. Williams chipped in with seven of his own points.
“It’s pretty good to start off this game off well. We’ve been sitting around for a couple of days,” Graves said. “We are excited to be here, so it’s good we got the jitters out of the way early. So we’ll be ready for the rest of the tournament.
“We aren’t trying to prove anything to anyone. Whether the fourth or 15th seed, we just come to play basketball.”
Sacred Heart will face Pleasant Valley in the quarterfinals Wednesday night at 8:30 at Jacksonville State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.